Treetop Flyers

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By: Tara Howe/Photography by: Benjamin Powell

Butterscotch. The boys and I cannot believe it. Perched on a platform encircling a tree 200 feet from the ground, clipped in at our harnesses to the cables above, our noses nuzzled into the thick orange scales of the Ponderosa pine; the bark smells like butterscotch. We burrow further. We can’t get enough.

Sailing through the air three times already to stand at this point, we’ve gained a new appreciation for the squirrels that run this playground with abandon. Still, we are thankful to be strapped into the secure system of lines, pulleys and carabiners all handled deftly by our guides. Amazingly, during the rides, each of these tree pilots has one of my two youngest snug to their chest. Not only are our guides handling a full crew of six adult zipliners, they’ve got my fledgling brood held close and enthralled. I trust them implicitly.

I thought it would be the catch of my breath or crater in my stomach that would make my first time at Timberline Adventures memorable. Instead, it is the familiarity and sense of home in the canopy full of long green needles and hushed tranquility. The ground cover has turned aureate and crimson in late Autumn sweetness. Waves of a non-existent ocean keep washing over us in the rise and fall of branches, sweeping strongly first at a distance, ebbing closer until the forest around us swoons. I swoon. My boys set their heels against the outer circumference of the scaffolding, stretch their arms to the firmament and lean back at 45-degree angles into the surrounding openness.

“Look, mom!” they exhale as they let the cables bear their weight and the forest take their fears.

Some form of archaic anamnesis takes over. We are completely at ease swinging through the trees.

My 9-year-old tucks into his guide’s experience, green eyes animated with expectation, and the uninhibited ‘yahoooo!’ he lets out for the first 20 feet churns my own anticipation until—just silence— the two of them riding out into air.

For two hours we laugh, joke, clip in and fly. We talk about how we could live forever in the trees and dare each other to let go in stages. First one hand, then two hands off the bar, then launching backward into the expanse.

“Did you see me, Mom?!” my oldest buzzes.

Some 450 vertical feet at its precipice and over 1,000 feet along its length, we cruise the seventh and last zipline like spies on a mission overtop the unsuspecting populace below. We do not want it to end.

We needn’t have worried, however, for even the final descent from the treetops back to the earth is a 15- foot rappel. Trusting our guides once more, we grip our safety lines and step off the edge to be caught and lowered to the ground. Then, we haul our ropes and gear over our shoulders, gulp great swigs of water from the weathered blue cooler and grin uncontrollably.

Riding back to town in the tall white van that inaugurated our journey, all three of my boys plead with me: “Please, Mom, can we do it again?! This is the best thing we’ve ever done!”

Soon, the croon of the winding road settles them into exhaustion and the adrenaline wears down to butterscotch scented dreams.

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